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  • 7/25/2019 create a powerful: Still Life



    Tips to EnhanceYour Still Life Art25




  • 7/25/2019 create a powerful: Still Life




    ew York artist Lisa Dinhofer is one of the lucky ones. De-spite the cultural mandates to grow up and abandon the joysof childhood, she has never lost her sense of play. In manyways, in fact, Dinhofer makes her work her play by creatingdrawings and paintings that entice the viewer into a magicalspace where the objects are real but the space clearly is not.

    I want to create a new world in my work, she says. One that the viewerwants to be a part of. One way she accomplishes this is by using objectswith universal appeal, such as her ubiquitous marbles.Everyone has astory about marbles, she explains. They represent a first collection, a firstexperience with group play, and with games and even gambling. Other toysthat fascinate her include dolls, clowns, and model trains. We are socialized

    by Lynne Moss Perricell i


    Convincing Objects in

    Imaginary Spaces

    Into the Light:Yellow2004, colored penciland collage, 19 x 22Collection the artist.

    through toys, Dinhofer says. Throughcreative play we mimic adult life, and toysstay with us forever.

    Besides their symbolic function, theseobjects make ideal subjects for art. Themarbles, for example, are like abstractpaintings, the artist explains. I can playwith space and color but still remaingrounded in the object. Furthermore, thedolls and clowns suggest the paradox ofseemingly innocent toys that look sinisterout of context. Dinhofers disembodied

  • 7/25/2019 create a powerful: Still Life




    This content has been abridged from original articles written by Lynne Moss Perricelli and Bob Bahr. This premium has been published byInterweave Press, 201 E. Fourth St., Loveland, CO 80537-5655; (970) 669-7672. Copyright 2009 by Interweave Press, a division of Aspire Media,all rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced either in whole or in part without consent of the copyright owner.

    Entering the Web2004, graphite, 22 x 30. All artwork thisarticle courtesy Denise Bibro Fine Art, NewYork, New York, unless otherwise indicated.

    Two Marbles2003, graphite, 15 x 11.

    dolls heads and isolated clown faces are unsettling imagesplayful, even lovelyobjects that have an edge. I like for the viewers to see beyond what they mightexpect, the artist says.

    Dinhofers primary concern is to create an illusion, and she makes a cleardistinction between this pursuit and that of being a realist.Its part of anevolution I went through, she says. Im interested in spatial relationships.I want to create an image that is believable but fantastic. The viewer can ac-cept the premise, but the objects could not be photographed in the way theyappear in the drawing or painting.

    With a body of work that includesbesides works on paper in a variety ofmediapaintings, prints, and even a glass-tile mosaic commissioned by NewYork Citys Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Dinhofer under-

    stands the role of drawings as anessential part of the creative process.She draws daily, believing the practice

    keeps her skills sharp and provides the

    opportunity to explore new ideas.Indrawings I get to play, to experiment,she explains. Many of the drawingsmay never become paintings, but I

    draw because I love it. If the paint-ings are novels, the drawings areessays, poemssometimes theyrejust thoughts. Indeed, she neverstarts a painting without first making

    drawings. Some of her ideas for paint-ings have come from small, cursorysketches, while others originated fromone interesting idea in a detailed,complex drawing. When she comes toa difficult passage in a painting, sheoften makes a drawing to work out a

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    resolution. Her series of cherries, pears, and insects served as life studies forlater paintings. Ive made entire paintings of subjects that may die, workingfrom life and studies, she adds.

    The artist maintains several custom-made sketchbooks of Fabriano paper invarious weights and colors. Some she uses for figure-drawing sessions, a prac-tice she thinks of as a warm-up, likening it to a pianist doing scales. I have tofeel confident in drawing the figure because I teach the figure, she says, but Ialso believe that if I can draw the figure well, I can draw anything. Other sketch-bookswith mostly white and off-white Somerset paperarefor the other subjects she fancies at a given moment, includingbirds, flowers, insects, mice, and skulls. The papers substantialweight allows her to work on both sides and in both wet and

    dry media, primarily graphite, coloredpencil, and watercolor. Drawing fiveor six hours a day, Dinhofer typicallyworks on one or two drawings in oneof the sketchbooks, while on other daysshe concentrates on a more developed

    drawing that may take several weeks tocomplete.

    Some of Dinhofers drawings featurea shallow picture plane and a loneobject, with no horizon line, while oth-ers are decidedly more complex, withmultiple objects and a sense of deepspace. Because the artist always worksfrom life, for these more complicatedpieces she constructs an elaborate still-life setup consisting of a couple of tiers

    made of Plexiglas, which allows her to

    Losing MyMarbles No. 12002, mixed media,15 x 20.

    We are socialized through toys. Throughcreative play we mimic adult life, and toys staywith us forever.

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    view each level at the same time.For Entering the Web, for instance, she laid awatercolor painting of a sunburst on a tabletop, then placed four small Plexiglasblocks and a piece of thin Plexiglas on top, onto which she put a cobweb drawnon acetate, several marbles, a skull, and a few dried insects. On top of that plane

    she placed another set of four small Plexiglas blocks and a sheet of Plexiglas,onto which she arranged more marbles and insects. The arrangement yieldedthree distinct planes that she could fuse into a two-dimensional image. As Din-hofer puts it, The objects observed through the Plexiglas have weight but seemsuspended in space. Therefore I can draw the reflected light and shadows as ifmy subjects were flying in one instance and grounded in another.

    Dinhofers interest in creating an illusion and conveying a sense of playculminated in Losing My Marbles, a project commissioned by the MTA Arts forTransit program. Consisting of five walls, the mural was installed at the TimesSquare subway station in 2003 and measures approximately 9 x 90. I hadbeen making chine coll prints, with a shadow that stretched across the bevelfrom the plate onto the paper, she describes. I liked the idea of the subject

    leaving the borders of the print, and Ithought that with a wall as the surface,I could break out of the rectangle. Ihad been working with marbles since

    1985, and they are part of my signature,so I thought this was a chance to letthe marbles escape. Using a ballpointpen or graphite pencil, the artist madea series of thumbnail drawings thatexplored different approaches to thisconcept, with the marbles coming offthe wall, the floor tilting. I wanted tocreate a piece that was site-specific, shesays, and I wanted to open up the area,make it joyous. As always for Dinhofer,drawings were central to refining the


    Strawberries2000, graphite, 18 x 13.


    Three Heads1997, graphite, 10 x 17.Collection the artist.


    Two examples fromDinhofers drawing books.

  • 7/25/2019 create a powerful: Still Life





    LISA DINHOFER earned her B.A.

    from Brandeis University, in Waltham,

    Massachusetts, and her M.F.A.

    from the University of Pennsylvania,

    in Philadelphia. She has had many

    solo exhibitions, most recently in

    November 2005 at Denise Bibro Fine

    Art, in New York City. Her glass-tile

    mosaic mural, Losing My Marbles,

    a project commissioned by the New

    York City Metropolitan Transportation

    Authority for its Arts for Transit pro-

    gram, is installed at the Times Square

    subway station at Eighth Avenue. Her

    paintings and drawings have appeared

    in many group shows, and the artist

    is a recipient of such awards as the

    Gladys Emerson Cook Prize, from the

    National Academy of Design, in New

    York City, and artists fellowships from

    The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.

    She teaches figure drawing at the

    National Academy School of Fine Arts,

    in New York City, and is represented

    by Denise Bibro Fine Art, also in New

    York City.

    concept. Theres never a big bang. Itsalways the sixth, seventh, or eighth ideathat starts to gel, she adds.

    Dinhofer was chosen as a finalistfor the subway commission basedon slides she sent the MTA. Then,working with an 11-x-17 architecturalrendering, the artist made about fourdrawingsin graphite and colored

    pencilon top of the rendering, usingcolor copies of the marbles from herpaintings so that she could more easilyplay with their scale and positioning.After she had finalized the imagery,she made two scale drawings, onethat